AHEAD began its operations in 1995 with a core mission that was, and remains, to address issues that keep at-risk students from being successful in school. In November of the following year AHEAD began its first after-school enrichment program at Franklin Elementary School in Massillon. AHEAD served twenty-five children initially and that number increased to fifty in 1998. In 1999, the school district received a $1.5 million multi-year federal grant which facilitated the after-school program’s expansion to other elementaries as well as the establishment of a summer component.

AHEAD assumed an advisory role at that time. Ever since, AHEAD has promoted community awareness of the benefits of after-school enrichment.

Commencing in 2005, AHEAD has taken a leading role to establish CARE Teams in the Massillon Schools. CARE Team is a multi-faceted approach to assist students who are experiencing serious difficulties in school. In addition, AHEAD provides both direct assistance and support to families in distress, including assessments and referrals to other agencies which provide shelter, food, medical, clothing and social services. In 2010, with the encouragement and support of the Sisters of Charity Foundation, AHEAD established Massillon SPARK, a Kindergarten readiness program which emphasizes parental participation and parents as the child’s first teacher.

AHEAD is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. It is a United Way agency, receiving additional financial support from individual contributions, corporate donations, and grants. A fourteen-member board of directors, broadly representative of the Western Stark community, governs our operations. Erica Thom is our Executive Director.